Another year starts and the intentions are always good… then life gets in the way. This article is aimed at giving a brief idea of how I overcome the problems of a lack of time in the lessons and also, how to increase the amount of work and effort a student makes, outside the class, without adding to the marking load of the teacher.

To overcome this, it is vital to set a high pace and keep it up.  However, I can only do so much through the working timetable.  So to get ‘extra’ time, I use the idea of homework very strongly – but not to create HUGE amount of marking – that it not going to help my sanity. At the same time, I know that in a few terms when I start the IA, I will be getting the students to do their IA in their own time, not the lesson time.  This will save at least 10 hours of class time – which is a great achievement.

Getting back to homework, I set homework every week and this often is in the form of a number of questions. The aim is that the student will have about 2 hours of work to do.  However, I have recently supplemented this by asking the student to select a title from a list of episodes of the BBC radio programme, “In Our Time” – check out Wikipedia for a full list of titles – it is amazing.

I play Dungeons and Dragons and so, have a large number of strange looking dice.  My class all roll a 20 sided dice and the one with the highest score chooses a title from the list – that is their program to review. This goes through the next highest, etc, until everyone has a title.

The students have 1 week to listen to the episode of In Our Time and they hand in a Spider Diagram (mind map) of the ideas discussed. They also know that once the mind maps are handed in, every lesson we require another roll of the dice and whoever gets the lowest number will be the first to give a 7 minute review of the radio program to the class – in this way, everyone has to be prepared, because the person chosen will be randomly decided.

The skills developed from the exercise are very important:

  • They gain the experience of listening to someone to take in information from the spoken word (rather than the normal visual input).
  • They learn how to produce mind maps and make notes.
  • Their physics knowledge will broaden as they meet the new ideas discussed by the 3 academics in the show.
  • They will gain excellent knowledge to interject into interviews for university.
  • And they gain presentation experience.

All of the above help at university.

For the teacher, the effort is quite small.  It is worth you listening to the radio programmes yourself (which is a good thing, not bad). The marking is minimal – you just sit back and listen to their presentation – maybe a few questions at the end.

Once a sufficient number of lessons have passed so that everyone has presented their work, you cycle through the radio programs with another collection of titles – it is all good.

There is another advantage to this method of adding homework. The student have no choice but to actually spend the 45 minutes listening to the radio program. If they do not do this, they will not be able to make the mind map and produce the presentation. So lazy students will learn very quickly that this is not an option in Physics.

I would encourage all teachers to have a think about this and try it. If you have problems accessing the episodes on the BBC web site, email me for advice on how to do this.

Remember that the pace for HL in particular, needs to be high and hopefully if this works well, you may even help the student to discover a passion for the subject they did not know they had.